Influence Operations

 By Maj Gen Pankaj Saxena VSM, (Retd)
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Pakistan is not an Indian or a South Asian problem. It is an international issue and the world needs to take a note of it, earlier the better.  Why has Pakistan reached this state, is an interesting study in itself. It came into existence on 14th August 1947 and became the Islamic Republic on 23rd March 1965. It inherited, because of its location, the wealth of the ancient cultures of the Indian subcontinent including the Indus Valley Civilisation of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, Multan, Gandhar, Takshila to name a few. Pakistan failed to look after this wealth and in fact its Government actively participated in the eradication of this wealth (Bamyan Buddha is one such example where the Government of Pakistan was complicit). The inheritance was wasted and squandered. Pakistan became Islamic to realise the aim of being an Islamic leader in the world. It also covertly acquired nuclear technology for the same. However, Pakistan faltered because of incompetent and self-serving leadership. It abandoned select Muslims (Ahmadiyya and Uighurs). The nuclear path towards this dream was modified to blackmail the world; as by projecting instability in Pakistan will lead to the arsenal falling in hands of the terrorist organisations. This is also a country which has repeatedly its citizens be it, soldiers, during Kargil War, step treatment being given to Pakistanis by China in Chinese Virus episode or selling their girls and women for Chinese satisfaction. On the other hand, Pakistan has not hesitated to cede its territory to China. In times to come, they will give up more under Chinese pressure. The Democratic State of Pakistan follows Martial Law or oblique Martial law. Democracy and democratically elected Government is a farce.  It is run by Army, which exercises its power of oppression on its citizens and the selected (elected) PM is just a puppet in the hands of military and ISI. Pakistan is a terrorist state is a fact known to the world. Though the world is yet to classify it as such. Atrocities in Baluchistan, oppression of minorities, women and weaker section is well known. This proves that in Pakistan governance is weak and law enforcement is pathetic; also, there are many restrictions to the freedom of speech and expression as far as the media and judiciary are concerned.

Why has Pakistan reached this state? Repeated Governments of Pakistan and its leaders have cheated the country for self-interests. They have psyched the country into self-pity and taken them on the path of self -destruction. Today this country thrives on blackmail in the international arena. Pakistani Punjabis dominate the Army and the country. The rest of the population has less than equal status in their own country. However, Pakistan enjoys the support of China through the Pakistan army, which in reality controls the state.

Why is China supporting Pakistan? Ambitions and insecurities of a nation dictate a plan to achieve its National Aim. The sole aim of China is ‘Respect of the Communist Party and securing leadership within China and in the World’. Economic strength, military power, and research & development are the three pillars of progress for any nation including China. One of the Strengths of China to achieve this is the resources of its huge landmass and its oceanic frontage. However, China remains vulnerable to its peripheries due to ethnicity in these areas.  The interplay between the indigenous Chinese and the Manchurians, Mongols, and Turks has formed one of the Central Themes of Chinese history. China historically strived to create a buffer from these competitors without fighting with all of them simultaneously.  To create this ever-expanding buffer they have been encroaching sparsely populated areas and subsequently altering their demography.  The fate of the USSR has been a lesson for China and the Communist Party believes that economic development does not automatically bring lasting order and security. Struggle against terror and unrest to safeguard stability is a protracted war of offense. HongKong, like Uighurs, will be made to fall in line in confirmation to this thought process.

 Two divergent nations are colluding with each other. Pakistan is an Islamic state and China is providing treatment to Muslims because of Islam. China is proud of its culture and history, Pakistan has abandoned its rich heritage. The population of Pakistan believes and wants economic development and China believes economic development is not enough for stability. The List is endless. China needs Pakistan as an economic conduit to Central Asia and Indian Ocean Ports, militarily to keep India engaged. China has bought Pakistan’s silence on the Uighur Muslim issue it also treats Pakistan as a testbed for its R&D and equipment. Pakistan reciprocally needs China to lean on for its survival in terms of labor, trade, grants, and its psychological inadequacy to stand on its own.

China analysed Pakistan in detail and found it to be a perfect candidate, ready to be exploited, as a colony without it being called as one. Pakistan as a nation is pliable and can jettison its history, culture, people, and land. The Policies of the US towards Pakistan afforded a welcome opportunity and China grabbed it. Corruption in Pakistan including the Army has been well exploited by the Chinese. The economy of Pakistan is in dire straits and needs bailing out through loans, although the money will serve only the powerful and the mighty. Islam as a unifying factor and is limited to an anti-India stance. The population of Pakistan can be subdued through its Army. The interest of ISI is also in terrorism and money laundering and their focus is towards Baluch and Pashtun areas. Moreover, USA fixation to defeat Al-Qaida & Taliban will be beneficial to China. Pakistan can play a significant role in this mission.

Pakistan has lost its individuality and thus it is important to look at Pakistan through the Chinese prism. It has embarked on influence operations most likely tutored by China, by buying prominent personalities, think-tank and writers all over the world, including India, by bearing costs of their travel, stay, and funding for all other purposes[i]. Influence operations also facilitate these think tanks and writers’ easy access to power corridors of Pakistan. This is a  symbiotic relationship involved in propaganda. This pressure group works for Pakistan. Pakistan is attempting to water down its image of an extremist state, which is radicalised and is unstable. It is attempting to project that it has good governance and law enforcement is the norm in the country. Human rights are protected in the country backed by free media and independent judiciary and weaker sections of the society to include women, minorities are not discriminated against. It is attempting to counter Islam phobia. It is also trying to sell CPEC to its people and the world. Interestingly, it is conducting these operations by comparing itself with India rather than improving its own image. Thus, it accepts that the World view is correct and that to counter this profiling of Pakistan, it is important to degrade the status of India.

India, as a responsible World Nation needs to inform the world that an irresponsible, unstable Pakistan, which has never cared for its own assets is not to be trusted. Individual nations are falling in China’s debt trap. World organisations will be funding China through Pakistan by means of grants and loans. This funding of China and terrorism through Pakistan needs to stop. People of Pakistan must know how China, supported by the Pak Army, is taking control of their country. Their land, money, women are all going to China. They will not only lose their country but also their race because the next generation of Pakistanis will resemble half Chinese and will converse in Mandarin and wearing Mao suit and Hanfu. The Population of Pakistan has to be informed as to how they, barring Punjabis, will be third-grade citizens in their own country. Pakistan Army, ISI, and its leaders are serving their own interests. They are not concerned if Pakistan is reduced to the Islamic State of Punjab with Baluchistan and Pashtun areas going to China and Sindh fighting for its own identity and survival. China sure must be aware that in case Pakistan disintegrates the nuclear arsenal can also fall in the hands of Uighurs.

To fulfil its responsibility, India needs to launch an Information campaign followed by ‘Influence Operations’. The targets for these actions should be the people of Pakistan, the polity of Pakistan, and the influencers of Pakistan. At International level world leaders, organisations, governments, alliances all need to be contacted diplomatically and otherwise. Chinese people including inhabitants of its periphery, people of Hong Kong, Taiwan also need to be informed. The selection of media is very important. Social media alone will not be able to cover the complete spectrum. Traditional methods like radio, television, newspapers, books, pamphlets, and fliers, will have to be pressed into service. A national newspaper, International India Radio, and TV needs to be created and given time to earn faith and respect for the viewers and listeners. All actions have to be subtle and authentic. Therefore, an organisation needs to be created to accomplish this task. This proposed organisation should comprise of experts from Armed Forces, foreign affairs, legal, language, psychology, media, sociology, etc. This could be autonomous in nature. The organisation must be cautious to focus on Pakistan and not drag the complete focus of India to Pakistan.

The operations must commence immediately. Create new narratives, feed new information to old narratives. The suggested organisation needs to be nimble-footed and must target upcoming international events. Early action will pay rich dividends.

End-Notes

[i]Fair, C., 2019. Grappling With Pakistan’s ‘Influence Operations’: When The Patriarchy Moves In To Silence A Female Critic – Firstpost. [online] Firstpost. Available at: <https://www.firstpost.com/world/grappling-with-pakistans-influence-operations-when-the-patriarchy-moves-in-to-silence-a-female-critic-7553721.html> [Accessed 25 June 2020].